So you're thinking of setting up a new business, have already begun the process, or are rebranding an existing one. Be sure that you have a scalable infrastructure of online tools to make you as productive as possible. Automation and integration are key. Here are my top 6 favorite digital tools.
Every business requires email. Many of the other tools you'll need, whether it's a billing platform, or project management system, or even social media pages will all require email.
When you launch a new business, or rebrand an existing one, it is important to be brand consistent.
Your logo (and logo icon) and name should exist everywhere you do: cards, stationery, marketing materials, invoices, your website, social media pages AND EMAIL.
You might ask, "but doesn't firstname.lastname@example.org (or AOL, or Yahoo) accomplish the same thing?"
The short answer is no. And the reasons go beyond aesthetics.
Setting up branded emails provides:
- brand consistency
- an image of professionalism and company stability
- control over accounts: if an employee leaves you can reassign all content to your account.
So this takes us to the next important decision: what email platform to choose?
There are many these days. But if you combine that question with what else do I need? Then it narrows the list. The more you can consolidate into just a few integrated systems, the better off you will be, and the more time your will save.
Through the years I've had to manage dozens of emails, and multiple domains as well. In the early days of my business I used the emails I got from GoDaddy.com, and managed them through my Outlook program. it worked, and Outlook was a very powerful tool -- too powerful, actually, as I only used about 50 % of its capabilities. And I didn't have the time to learn how to use the rest.
Then I stumbled onto Google for Business, later called Google for Work, and most recently rebranded as G-Suite. An even though i have my own version of GoDaddy called IntechWebTools (for domain registration, hosting and email management, among other things) it is G-Suite that I use for email and domain management, and as a company-wide mini enterprise system.
From a single login I manage all my domains; all my user accounts; and everything is tegrated across the system, including company content (via the Drive - docs, images, spreadsheets, presentations, forms) contacts, and; company calendars.
G-Suite provided me with company-branded Gmail, but more than that it provided access for my employees, directors and partners to collaborate with content, integrated chats, and more.
Today I manage 20 user accounts across three continents from a single dashboard. Moreover, just for myself, I have 30 email Ids across several domains, several profiles, and many more Google Plus business pages.
Every time you have to logout of one place to login to another you're wasting precious time. So I instantly became a fan of G-Suite because it saved me time.
As I noted earlier, time-efficiency is -- or should be -- the goal of any business, and the way to achieve it is through carefully orchestrated integration and automation; when you have an email system built into your company-wide collaboration system, that is a good starting block.
We all hire, fire and have employees that leave over time. With a company-owned email, multi-domain management system, and company-wide collaboration system, the advantages are that:
- your website email contact form can forward to info@ of support@ and never have to be changed. When the employee who was receiving those email leaves, you simply reassign that alias to be received by another employee user account who takes over that job function.
- all content -- from documents, spreadsheets and presentations belong to the company -- and as such can be stored on the company domain drive. If an employee leaves, you reassign all the content to yourself or someone else, and then delete the departing employee account.
- employees can collaborate in real time on documents, can use chat across the system, can share access to documents and calendars, and more.
For these reasons and others I have found G-Suite to be a tremendous asset in running my business efficiently. Also, when I receive an email, in one click I can assign it to tasks, and have that task auto-poplulate on the calendar.
G-Suite can also integrate (and in some cases sync) with other 3rd party apps. After a lot of trial and error, here are the ones I liked best:
G-Suite -- Enterprise framework with email
Certainly if you load a contact info into your G-Suite contacts, you don't want to have to retype them into other programs. So you need programs where you can import and/or sync that information.
The key components you may want to setup include: CRM (customer relation management), billing/ accounting, project management, and promotion, among many others.
Pretty much any tools you need to run your business you can find as integrated 3rd party apps in the G-Suite marketplace; or in a daisy chain find the first in that marketplace and then the next in that apps own marketplace. There are so many it can be overwhelming. I know, I was overwhelmed. I installed and demo'd many apps before finding what worked best for me. I actually loaded too many too fast.
So my suggestion is to go slow. Install G-Suite (it's only $4 per month per user) and learn all that it can do -- email, calendars, drive, plus, groups, and sites -- before installing other apps from the marketplace.
Every business is different. so what works for one might not be the best fit for another. My business is service based, so if that defines yours too then what I list below is a good bet. if what I list below doesn't work for you, feel free to contact me and I will make other suggestions based on other apps I've tried along the way.
The G-Suite marketplace includes apps for business, productivity, education, communication, and utilities. Here are my top picks:
HubSpot -- a scalable CRM to manage customers, deals, sales & more. The benefits include:
- Free CRM -- you can add all your sales team members.
- Companies, contacts, deals and deal stages, tasks, schedules, and pre written email templates.
- For $50 a month I highly recommend the email sidekick.
- HubSpot integrates with many other 3rd party apps, including TeamWork, listed below.
TeamWork -- a scalable and cost-effective project management system. The benefits include:
- Starting at $49 a month, they charge by the no. of projects: you can have unlimited users.
- White label -- again, keep your brand consistent.
- Daily email digest of past due and upcoming tasks and milestones.
- Has its own marketplace of 3rd party apps that it integrates with it, including QuickBooks - the most powerful small business accounting and billing system.
Bitrix24 -- a scalable enterprise system. The benefits are:
- Free version, then $39/mo, $99/mo and $199/mo .
- The paid versions have employee time clocks.
- The paid version is a full enterprise: CRM, project management, social network.
- Integrates and syncs with G-Suite email and calendars.
Pipeline Deals -- sales pipeline app. The benefits include:
- Syncs with G-Suite contacts, calendars, and contacts.
- Build teams and assign leads.
- See pending opportunity, lost and won funnels.
DrumUP -- for content. They're competing with Hootsuite. benefits include:
- Free trial, then $15, $30, $79, or $159 plans
- social media management & content curation.
- employee advocacy.
- content discovery (API).
- content promotion.
These are but a few of the incredibly powerful and intuitive online tools that I have found after testing perhaps fifty or more. I will be following up at some point with other tools that can help you become more automated and integrated in your quest for time-efficiency.
Remember that in the words of Rory Vaden:
automation is to your time what compound interest is to your money."